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How protest stopped the EDL

Here in Walthamstow our local Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group has been meeting monthly since 2008. We knew that sooner or later the racist English Defence League (EDL) would want to come and stir up hatred in our community.

So we were ready to fight back. Backed by UAF, we built a coalition called “We Are Waltham Forest”. The response was phenomenal. We went on to see one of the biggest and most diverse anti-EDL demos ever on 1 September.

Some 4,000 of us, of all nationalities, ages, religions and sexualities, marched together and blocked the fascists’ path.

We asked the local council and MPs to support us. Our Labour MP Stella Creasy called for a ban on the EDL march, but also came and spoke at our public meetings.

A few councillors came to our first public meeting, but most didn’t involve themselves again after that. Council leader Chris Robbins had ordered councillors to distance themselves from us.

When they saw 4,000 on the streets, they could not believe their eyes. That’s why the councillors felt compelled to act when the EDL announced it would came back on 27 October.

But the council chose to act in a very different way from us. It made no attempt to talk to us. It did everything it could to demobilise our demonstration, spreading mistruths that it had been banned. Some even went as far as to say we were no different to the EDL.

Why did they do this? It’s because they saw 4,000 working class people take to the streets to stop the EDL. They know that this could happen again in a different context. Next time, the aim may be to stop the onslaught of cuts to local services. So they wanted to blunt the sword of our movement.

To a degree, it worked. The second demonstration numbered about 1,000. The mosques did not come out and a number of locals stayed away. But the EDL would not have been kept out of Walthamstow if anti-racists had not insisted on marching.

The victory was down to the grassroots campaign—and not because some opportunist councillors had called for a ban. It was mass protest, not police or unaccountable councillors, that stopped the fascist EDL.

Natasha Monez, Liz Ray, Ulrike Schmidt, Tom Davis and Dean Harris, Waltham Forest, north east London


European strike is needed here

The general strike planned for 14 November will be a key strike in the struggle against cuts here in the Spanish state. But it will also be international, coinciding with strikes in Portugal, Italy and Greece.

That’s the kind of response we need when faced with the European Union’s attitude. Europe’s rulers are counting on the impoverishment of the working class in the “periphery” countries to save business and banks.

This will be our second general strike in a year—something that hasn’t happened since the end of General Franco’s dictatorship. That shows how much the unions have got riding on “14N”.

However, the decision to strike isn’t something we owe to the fearful and conservative union leaders. It is down to the big push they’ve had from the popular mobilisations that have taken place since the miners’ strikes and savage cuts of the summer.

The strike also comes amid the escalation of struggles for national liberation, especially in Catalonia. In September more than two million marched to demand independence.

It is true that the initiative is currently with the right wing nationalist party CiU. But the convergence of struggles against cuts with this movement can open up opportunities for the left.

Luis Zhu, Barcelona


Savile case may reopen an old scandal

The revelations that the Jimmy Savile paedophile scandal could have extended into Downing Street could reopen one of the most shocking cover-ups in British history. The case involves the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast, where a child sex abuse scandal came to light in January 1980.

Private Eye magazine alleged that high-ranking members of the Whitehall civil service and senior military officers were involved in the abuse. Former army press officer Colin Wallace said the authorities knew about the abuse for six years before they acted.

If any good can come out of these cover-ups and miscarriages of justice, it is that more people can see the state for what it is. That the crimes of predatory “celebrities” are now being taken seriously will make many question the ethics of all those who run our institutions.

Anna Owens, east London


The myth of ‘gang culture’ in the riots

The Centre for Social Justice, the right wing “think tank” founded by Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith, claims that gang violence has increased since last year’s riots.

It says this is because post-riot arrests created a power vacuum filled by “younger, wilder youths”. “Streets across the country are besieged by anarchy and violence,” it concludes.

But the idea that gangs were at the heart of the riots is a right wing delusion. Duncan Smith and others never produce a shred of evidence for their claims.

In contrast a report by the independent Riots, Communities and Victims Panel earlier this year found that social causes were behind the riots. And the government’s own statistics also show rioters were largely young, poor and excluded from education.

Only 13 percent were identified as gang members. That’s compares to the 42 percent of young people arrested who were on free school meals and over a third who had been excluded from school. The role of “gangs” in the riots was negligible.

Sasha Simic, east London


The great train party

The Liverpool train back from the 20 October protest was raucous—almost a party. We broke out the beer, leafleted for an anti-cuts conference and had political discussions. They took in Cameron, austerity, Miliband, Labour betrayals, union betrayals, the UCS sit-in and more. Fascinating.

Julian Alford, Liverpool


Swansea says no to racism

I want to congratulate Swansea City football team. All the players refused to wear the T-shirts for the inadequate “Kick It Out” anti-racism campaign, in unity with their black colleagues.

Their Wigan Athletic opponents also refused to wear them. An inspiring example of solidarity.

Hugh Parsons, Swansea


Hypocrisy over poppies

In response to Matthew Rhodes on poppies, politicians have escalated their poppy wearing in recent years for a simple reason. They want to boost support for the Afghanistan war.

Poppy wearing began after the First World War as a ruling class response to workers’ anti-war anger. It has always been tainted by their hypocrisy.

T Hunter, Manchester


Well done to Yunus Bakhsh

A credit to our nursing profession and a truly heroic NHS trade unionist. A fine comrade.

Jim McLaughlin on Twitter

Fantastic news! They took Yunus to hell and back—it’s only right that they pay. Good to see justice prevailing.

Crawley Keep Our NHS Public on Twitter

What a hero!

June Joneson Facebook


Article information

Letters
Tue 6 Nov 2012, 17:54 GMT
Issue No. 2328
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